Kansas City, MO – June 14, 2021 – Today, on the 81st anniversary of the first transport of 728 Polish men to the German Nazi Auschwitz camp in 1940, Union Station opened the most comprehensive exhibition
dedicated to the history of Auschwitz and its role in the Holocaust ever offered in North America. Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. – presented by Bank of America – is produced in partnership with the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland and the Spain-based international exhibition producers, Musealia. The groundbreaking exhibition has been curated by an international team of experts led by historian Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt.
“Today, Union Station opened one of the most important exhibitions in our history”, George Guastello, Union Station president and CEO, said. “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. is meant to stir the conscience of the world and ensure none of us ever stands by to let the seeds of hatred and indifference grow again. The consequences, otherwise, are devastating. Everyone should make plans to take advantage of this rare opportunity to learn profound lessons from the not-too-distant past.”
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. – nearly 6 years in the making — arrived in Kansas City as the second and final programmed stop in the U.S. tour before all the artifacts must return to Europe. Advance ticket purchases have already set a record for Union Station touring exhibitions with guests coming from 47 states. Indeed, guest from near and far will encounter real, relevant and life-shaping truths . . .
“With the current and persistent priority locally, nationally and even globally regarding the transformative power of truth and healing, the timing of Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away., is particularly relevant and important,” Ramón Murguía, Union Station’s Board Chairman, said. “The seeds of hatred were scattered far and wide, methodically and tragically under the Nazi flag leading up to and through World War II. And although evil was met head-on by the allies who ultimately defeated Hitler, some seeds remained. That’s precisely why encounters with unvarnished history – as presented in this exhibition – are essential to ensuring diversity, inclusion and acceptance ultimately win. We recognize that loving each other as humans is the best way forward.”
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. features 20 thematic galleries covering the massive 20,000 sqf Bank of America Gallery. The story explores the dual identity of the camp as a physical location—the largest documented mass murder site in human history—and as a symbol of the borderless manifestation of hatred and human barbarity.
“Auschwitz did not start with the gas chambers. Hatred does not happen overnight: it builds up slowly among people. It does so with words and thoughts, with small everyday acts, with prejudices,” said Luis Ferreiro, Director of Musealia and the exhibition project. “When we had the vision to create the exhibition, we conceived its narrative as an opportunity to better understand how such a place could come to exist, and as a warning of where hatred can take us.”
The exhibition allows visitors to experience artifacts from the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum including hundreds of personal items—such as suitcases, eyeglasses, and shoes—that belonged to survivors and victims of Auschwitz. Other artifacts include concrete posts that were part of the fence of the Auschwitz camp; fragments of an original barrack for prisoners from the Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp; a desk and other possessions of the first and the longest serving Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss; a gas mask used by the SS; Picasso’s
Lithograph of Prisoner; and an original German-made Model 2 freight wagon used for the deportation of Jews to the ghettos and extermination camps in occupied Poland.
“Auschwitz and the Shoah are not just another single, dramatic event in the linear history of humanity. It is a critical point in the history of Europe, and perhaps the world,” said Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński, Director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. “While commemorating the victims of Auschwitz we should also feel moral discomfort. Antisemitic, hateful, xenophobic ideologies that in the past led to the human catastrophe of Auschwitz, seem not to be erased from our lives today. They still poison people’s minds and influence our contemporary attitudes. That is why studying the Holocaust shouldn’t be limited to history classes. It must become part of curricula of political and civic education, ethics, media, and religious studies. This exhibition is one of the tools we can use.”
Exhibition visitors will trace the development of Nazi ideology and the transformation of Auschwitz from an ordinary Polish town known as Oświęcim to the most significant site and symbol of the Holocaust—at which ca. 1 million Jews, and tens of thousands of others, were murdered. Victims included Polish political prisoners, Sinti and Roma, Soviet POWs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and those the Nazis deemed “homosexual,” “disabled,” “criminal,” “inferior,” or adversarial in countless other ways. In addition, the exhibition contains artifacts that depict the world of the perpetrators—SS men who created and operated the largest of the German Nazi concentration and extermination camps.”
“Seventy-five years ago, after the world saw the haunting pictures from Auschwitz, no one in their right mind wanted to be associated with Nazis. But today, 75 years and generations later, people have forgotten, or they never knew,” said Ron Lauder, Founder and Chairman of the The Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation Committee and President of the World Jewish Congress. “This exhibit reminds them, in the starkest ways, where anti-Semitism can ultimately lead and the world should never go there again. The title of this exhibit is so appropriate because this was not so long ago, and not so far away.”
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. was conceived by Musealia and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and curated by an international panel of experts, including world-renowned scholars Dr. Robert Jan van Pelt,
Dr. Michael Berenbaum, and Paul Salmons, in an unprecedented collaboration with historians and curators at the Research Center at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, led by Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz.
Bringing this exhibition to life took a large Kansas City community of supporters and a year-long effort to ensure as many people as possible – regardless of their personal finances – could learn from its contents.
“Nothing as important as an exhibition like Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away., happens without a community of supporters and donors stepping up without hesitation to make it possible,” Guastello added. “Union Station and Kansas City owes each of them our deepest gratitude. From our presenting sponsor and longtime partner, Bank of America, to the dozens of individuals, families, foundations and companies, you each are invaluable and are leaving a tremendous legacy to touch current and future generations as the Holocaust truths are told again and again . . . never to be forgotten.
Among those essential partnerships is the Midwest Center to for Holocaust Education (MCHE) and Jessica Rockhold, Executive Director. Union Station is partnering with MCHE to host a series of public and educational programming featuring experts on the Holocaust and available both in person and online throughout the exhibition run.
Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. runs through January, 2022 but Station officials strongly urge advance, online ticket reservations be made soon, as many days are already sold out with others filling quickly.
Union Station Members: $15
Students (3-22): $17.50
Senior (55+): $19
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10 AM – 6 PM with Last Ticket Sold at 4 PM
Complete details covering security, what to bring (and not), age appropriateness, student field trip scholarships and FAQs are available online at unionstation.org
ABOUT Union Station Kansas City — a 501(c)3 non-profit organization — is a 107-year-old historical landmark and celebrated civic asset renovated and reopened to the public in 1999. Recently awarded “Favorite Attraction”, “Favorite Family-Friendly Attraction” and “Favorite Historic Attraction”, the organization — dedicated to science education, celebration of community and preservation of history — is home to Kansas City’s internationally-awarded Science City; the new Arvin Gottlieb Planetarium; the Regnier Extreme Screen Theatre; the popular Model Train Gallery; City Stage Theatre featuring live theater, and a selection of unique shops and restaurants. Union Station is also home to prominent area civic organizations and businesses, and regularly hosts world-class traveling exhibitions. Awarded “Top Banquet Facilities in KC” by KC Business Journal, the facility annually hosts hundreds of community events and private celebrations of all sizes. Visit WWW.UNIONSTATION.ORG for details. Also, follow us on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, and YOUTUBE.
Musealia is a Spanish-based global producer of large-scale historical exhibitions that are presented at museums and education centers all over the world. Its vision is to create and manage exhibitions that are distinguished by a strong narrative character, historical rigor, emotional impact, and educational value.
ABOUT THE AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU STATE MUSEUM
Fulfilling the wish of survivors, on July 2, 1947, the Polish parliament created the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on the site of two preserved parts of the former German Nazi camp: Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau. The Memorial today includes an Archive and a Collections department, and undertakes research, conservation, and publishing activities. It is, above all, an education center that teaches visitors about the history of Auschwitz and the Shoah. More than 2 million people visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in 2019.
Artifacts and images from dozens of institutions and private collections from around the world will be on view at Union Station. These sources include:
Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim
Auschwitz Jewish Center, Oświęcim
Buchenwald Memorial, Weimar
Canadian War Museum, Ottawa
Christian Schad Museum, Aschaffenburg
Czartoryski Museum and Library, Kraków
Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin
Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum, Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot
Hartheim Castle Education and Memorial Centre, Alkoven
Holocaust Center for Humanity, Seattle
House of the Wannsee Conference, Berlin
Imperial War Museum, London
Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich
Institute of National Remembrance, Warsaw
Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam
Jewish Museum of Greece, Athens
Mauthausen Memorial, Mauthausen
Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen, Oranienburg
Memorial Centre Westerbork, Hooghalen (The Netherlands)
Montreal Holocaust Museum, Montreal
Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.
NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam
Slovak National Archives, Bratislava
Terezín Initiative Institute, Prague
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.
Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide, London
Yad Vashem, Jerusalem